So, here’s where Auckland’s 2016/17 NZFC teams are based.
A little isthmus focused perhaps? A nice West to East spread mind you.
That’s OK though, because here’s where they’ll likely be playing their home fixtures.
A major assumption has been made here, that the NZFC will continue to be televised by Sky Sports. That would mean games moved to Thursday and later on Sunday afternoons, while also ensuring Auckland City and Eastern Suburbs play at least some of their home fixtures at either North Harbour or Mt Smart, rather than at Kiwitea St or the Ngahue Reserve (Suburbs aren’t using Madills for the National League).
For Waitakere though, every game is played either at North Harbour or Mt Smart.
Now, I’m no Waitak supporter, but if a club is called Waitakere United, then it’s sort of supposed to actually play in and around Waitakere. Look at the map. Waitakere United are spending more time in Albany and Onehunga than in their local area. People in Massey, Hobsonville, Henderson and Kumeu are meant to have a local team to support, not have to schlep up SH18 to North Harbour.
The same for Suburbs and Auckland City. This isn’t like having the Blues represent all of Auckland – each NZFC franchise represents a specific area of Auckland, so shifting every team’s game to a neutral venue is an utterly bizarre tactic when one of the stated aims of NZF is to get attendances of > 1000 people.
I get it though. North Harbour and Mt Smart are already wired up for outside broadcast, it costs Sky less $ to televise games there. But it’s also ensuring that clubs like Waitakere, City and Suburbs have a doubly hard task of engaging their local communities and convincing them that a half hour drive over the Harbour Bridge will totally be worth it.
It’s catch-22, or perhaps catchment 22. Eastern Suburbs have the neighbourhoods east of State Highway 1 curling around to the CBD. Auckland City have Sandringham, Mt Albert, Three Kings, Mt Eden, New Windsor – basically the chunk between State Highway 1 and the beginning of Westie territory.
Waitakere have, well, everywhere I listed earlier. Here’s a map of that.
NZF have got big ambitions for the league, but it seems that sometimes they’re mixing them up with their capabilities. Placing the game on television gets it wider exposure, but gates have fallen as a result.
Attendances at the NZFC aren’t great – lower than many non-league games in other countries. But there’s lessons to be learned from how some of those clubs, fighting in a Premier League saturated football environment, manage to get more people through the gate. A common thread is the identification of the clubs catchment area and working it hard.
It’s time to get hyper-local for NZFC clubs, to develop advertising and engagement strategies which better grounds clubs in their local communities. Posters in shops, dairies and at bus stops. Hitting up local schools to see if the fixtures can be included in their newsletters for Term 4 and the Summer. Turning up at local events with flyers and fixtures lists.
Certainly, it’s the job of the clubs to actually do the hard yards on the streets, it’s NZF’s responsibility to make it a worthwhile job for the clubs to do.
Should Sky decide to screen the 2016/17 season, then that job becomes harder for every team in Auckland – the largest population concentration in the country. Because a fifteen walk or a ten minute drive each way to Kiwitea, Madills or Fred Taylor is a lot more appealing than a thirty minute each way journey over the Harbour Bridge or along SH18.
It doesn’t mean it won’t be worth doing mind. So, time for me to actually do something.
For each of Auckland City’s Kiwitea St. games this year, I’m going to put my hand in my pocket and get a hundred or so match posters made and put them up in the suburbs surrounding the ground in the week before the game. Here’s one of the rough drafts.
If it works, great. If it doesn’t, well – at least I followed through on my idea to see if it would work. No shame in trying.
…there’s another thing I’ve been thinking about. What if the catchment areas were based on the actual geography of Auckland? I mean, what about the North Shore and South Auckland. They’re not even part of the current setup. Something like this…
But that’s a whole different problem altogether!
Categories: NZ Men's National League
John Palethorpe lives in South Auckland which is very far away from Fratton Park and Champion Hill. Having been told there was no football in New Zealand, he was delighted to find that there is.